In 2009, while deciding which trips to include in "Backpacking North Carolina," I was especially intrigued by the area southwest of Franklin, NC. Intrigued in part because I'd never hiked there, but also because I couldn't recall reading much about the region. I planned a visit.
I came away dumbfounded by the lack of exposure this gorgeous area had received. My scouting resulted in a 30-mile circuit hike that climbs out of Standing Indian Basin on the Long Branch Trail spends about 20 miles on the Appalachian Trail, then returns to the basin via Kimsey Creek. We will incorporate portions of this circuit in our three-day weekend of hiking.
Friday: We'll hike directly from the campground and hike up Kimsey Creek to Deep Gap, where we will head north on the AT. We'll stop at 5,498-foot Standing Indian Mountain for lunch, then return on Lower Trail Ridge Trail. Total distance: just over 11 miles of moderately challenging trail.
Saturday: We'll drive a short distance and set up a shuttle for a 7.5-mile hike, half of which will be on the Appalachian Trail. From FS 67, we'll hike 2.5 miles up Bear Pen Gap Trail to the trail's namesake. At the gap, we pick up the AT headed north, passing over Albert Mountain and continuing on to Glassmine Gap. There, we descend 2 miles to FS 67.
Sunday: After a pancake breakfast, we'll head back up FS 67 for short hikes to Big Laurel Falls and Mooney Falls.
The campground sits at a wide spot on Kimsey Creek that, after a long hike on a summer's day, makes for one swell place to cool off.
The weekend includes three days of hiking, three nights of camping, Sunday breakfast, hot coffee or tea all three mornings, a swag bag with gear and snacks, and an eguide, including maps, for the hikes. Cost is $95.